"The days had passed when the composer would have to be complicated or deliberately incomprehensible".

Composer Sergiu Natra describes the work "Three Preludes for Orchestra" that would be performed later in the Philharmonic season

Sergiu Natra is a happy Israeli composer. I sit in his house crammed with sculptures and paintings made by his wife Sonia and I can not reflect on the extent of the rareness of such phenomenon in the community of Israeli composers. Here you will not hear complaints about Israel prize or about "deprived generation". At best, likely to hear about a new composition (presumably for harp), about an interesting concert which is about to take place (in our conversation Natra curiously mentioned a guitar recital of a young colleague), or pondering aloud about serious things (writing for harp is not a matter of technique only, it is necessary to have a sense of emotion and something to say he says casually).

Indeed, the recent years have been favorable to Natra: a tribute concert held in honor to him by "Kol Hmusica", which received very positive reactions from the audience and critics. A large number of his works are performed almost regularly in Europe. A commissioned work from him opened the last Harp Competition. And now, performing "Preludes for Orchestra" by the Philharmonic Orchestra. "I believe in the need of communication as a motive for creating," he explains, "the days had passed in which certain aesthetics had obliged the composer to be complicated or deliberately incomprehensible in his work. There was always an emotional element in my music and I strived to convey it to my audiences".

There is something fascinating in the ongoing love story between Natra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, a story which deciphered almost as a kind of personal diary, which from it's pages arise names and dates, that paint the picture of the musical life of the State of Israel from the past and until the present time. "The first performance of my work performed by the Philharmonic was in 1948, when I was still in Romania," says Natra. "In 1944, I wrote a piece entitled “Marsh and Choral”, which earned me the prestigious Enescu award and which was written as a protest of the young composer against the Nazi occupation and regime. The conductor Edward Lindberg, which I knew, liked this work and took a copy of the score when he was forced to flee from Romania. In 1948 the Philharmonic Orchestra invited Lindberg to conduct it, he brought this piece and performed it with a great success in Tel Aviv". 

This was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Natra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. After few years it was followed by the composer's immigration to Israel. 

In 1962 the conductor Sergiu Comissiona was invited to conduct on the IPO. Commissiona, a student of Lindberg (in Romania, explains Natra, in certain periods Jews were not allowed to attend public schools for music, and therefore they had founded a special musical school; Mendi Rodan, Sergiu Commissiona and himself were some of the most prominent students of this school), also chose to perform Natra's work "Symphony for Strings'. "It was a hard work" says the composer and do not forget that in 1962 a modern piece, any modern piece, was a major innovation for the orchestra's musicians. I was very pleased that the orchestra loved this work and equally glad to receive the warmth acceptance of the audience. 

The first success had led to an immediate invitation of a new work, which was intended to open the Israel Festival of 1963. The "Toccata for Orchestra" (a festive overture) was performed with the Philharmonic with the conductor Mendi Rodan. In 1967 the IPO was invited to perform in a tour of concerts in the Soviet-Union. For this tour the orchestra had ordered from Natra the work "Variations for Piano and Orchestra". The intended soloist for this tour was Daniel Barenboim and Zubin Mehta for the conducting. Due to the 'Six Day War', the tour was canceled and later this work was performed by the pianist Frank Pelleg, conducted by George Zinger. 

The year 1972 had brought another comission of a music work, this time in honor of the opening of the Israel Festival: "Two Poems for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra". The text was taken from the books of Isaiah and Psalms, the singer Rema Samsonov and the conductor Daniel Barenboim had presented "huge interpretation". 

The last piece, commissioned by the Philharmonic was written for the late violist Daniel Benyamini. Natra recalls: "Benyamini played this work in 1988 in a farewell concert held from him and Zubin Mehta conducted, but to this day I regret that there was no recording of this performance due to a strike of the radio personals that day". Natra adds that "over the years personal relations have developed between him and the Philharmonic players. I love them and they love my music, and therefore I'm happy that the orchestra chose to perform my piece in this year series". 

"Three Preludes for Orchestra" are part of a larger work "Sacred Service". The work was commissioned by 'Temple Emanuel' in San Francisco to perform in the synagogue. This is the same synagogue that commissioned a sacred service work from Darius Milhaud and Mark Lavry. "I wrote the work for baritone, organ and choir and it includs also two solo arias for soprano, organ, violin, cello and harp. By its very nature the work it is festive and accessible - do not forget that it was heard originally in a synagogue and not in a concert hall and that the members of the community, who were not professional singers, supposed to join the singing in some parts". 

The Preludes that the IPO will perform in early May, conduct by Ionaitz'i Hirokami, are based on materials from the larger vocal work. "Mizmor Shir" is the first chapter, "Oseh Shalom" is the second, and the series end with "Halleluiah". As in the "Sacred Work", the most striking element is the "Preludes" is the clear melodic thinking, says the composer, and therefore the audience will no have problem to follow the tunes in the first episode, when even the verbal rhythm of "Mizmor Shir" is obviously to the ear, in the second part there is an extensive solo of the cello and the third part is a joyful and dramatic Fugue. "I emphasize that it was important for me that the work would be clear to the wide audience and that people could sing the materials appearing in it. I'm not running away from melody and all my life the combination of tonality and modality fascinated me. I do not find it necessary to use the characteristics identified with the modern music, like the melodic huge leaps and fragmented phrases. Boulez was unique and it is our luck in this sense. I feel no binding".